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“My infant died in the care of a stranger when he should have been with me.”

In this morning’s Motherlode, Amber Scorah recounts the story of the last day of her three-month-old son’s life. Scorah, like many professional women, had enjoyed her maternity leave with her newborn Karl, and wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of placing him in daycare. But Scorah couldn’t quit her job and extend her three-month maternity leave indefinitely, since her employer provided her family’s health insurance. So Scorah placed her son in daycare, and upon returning to pick him up on the first day of his stay, the unthinkable happened. 

Instead, I saw my son unconscious, splayed out on a soft changing table. His lips and the area around his mouth were blue, and the day-care owner was performing CPR on him, incorrectly.

Our sweet son died two and a half hours after the first time I had left him.

Scorah acknowledges that what happened to her son could well have happened in her own care, and says she will have to live with the question of what-if for the rest of her life. (“This article isn’t about day-care safety. This isn’t an indictment of the company I work for; I had one of the better parental leave policies of anyone I know.”) What is certain is that American policy structures, like an absence of generous, guaranteed leave and a lack of universal health care, put parents in the position of making hard choices about childcare. Scorah’s case renders quite clear the strictures placed on family life by gaps in policy, and highlights how limited many families’ choices really are.